Russell Granet interviewing artist, Ernesto Neto, at the Park Avenue Armory. Russell Granet hosting a cultural exchange concert at Carnegie Hall (far right).
Speaking
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TEDxGotham

October 15, 2010. Apologies for the sound quality.

The Right Brain Initiative 2010, Keynote Speaker, Portland, OR

The Guggenheim Museum, Speaker, New York, NY

Face to Face 2010, Opening Speaker, New York, NY

I was very pleased to be asked to open and close Face-to-Face 2010. As some of you know I have been the Face-to-Face raffle MC for many years – something I am very proud of, but I see this is a big step up. For all you other raffle MC’s let me be your inspiration. This is the 17th year of Face-to-Face. I have been in arts education since graduating from conservatory in 1988 – so this year marks my 22nd year in the field. I have literally grown up with many of you in the room this morning. I first attended this conference as a teaching artist; I had shoulder length brown hair, and an earring – not a pretty sight. I also remember very clearly doing a lot of eye rolling – especially at the suits up here at the podium. I knew more, had more practical experience, was more in-touch with young people. I had longer hair, I was relevant. I also believed that I didn’t have to write stuff down, align anything with anything. Lesson plans, curriculum, standards, pedagogy – I didn’t even know what most of those words meant. And most of all, if someone wanted to know whether or not I was successful in the classroom – I would say – “just come see me.” Don’t ask me to write up a rubric, assess or evaluate because I knew I was doing right by the kids with whom I was working. I was making a difference. I made them laugh, I got them out from behind their desks, and introduced them to a new world – the world of theatre. I watched how theatre transformed them – I believed it allowed them to see the world through a slightly larger lens, to become more empathic to others, and to possibly envision a different or better life. At times, the work I did, and the work we do, transcends language. It just lived in the room in a kind of perfect way. To write it down seemed to in some way minimize its importance. During a 10-day residency I was convinced I had changed lives. I may have – one never knows – it certainly changed mine. In 2010, the field of arts education has evolved. We are a profession, a professional community of artists: some of whom are teachers, teaching artists, or administrators, but all artists. Teachers often tell me they are not comfortable making art – they are a teacher not an artist. I will argue that what quality teachers do in NYC public schools - Monday through Friday - from 7am in the morning to 7pm at night - in often incredibly challenging environments - is a form of artistry. We now have standards, benchmarks, blueprints, - we have planning sessions, professional development for teachers and artists, we are developing long-standing quality arts partnerships. Schools and cultural organizations are talking, planning and sharing best practices not just within the partnership, but with outsiders as well. We are colleagues. It is an amazing time. I envision a future where my mother will say, “My son is an arts educator” and she’ll actually know what that means. There are people in this room who have been in arts education far longer than I and I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge their work. To the founding members of Face-to-Face: THANK YOU and to all the others in this room who have dedicated their life to quality arts education: THANK YOU. It is your shoulders we stand on as we move forward. And that future is a bright one – we are the twenty under forty, the forty under eighty, and the eighty under one hundred and sixty – and our strength lies in moving forward TOGETHER. For me, the best part about Face-to-Face is the sense of community. The personal and the professional have now blurred – completely. I remember being told when I was graduating that I would have two lives: a personal one and a professional one. They should and needed to stay separate. I actually don’t think that’s possible or should even be encouraged when you work in our field. The people are too much fun, too smart, and too funny – why separate? One of the many opportunities I have had in this field is to work with a variety of incredibly gifted people. I have had the chance to travel throughout the United States and abroad and have met artists, and students, and parents who have inspired and challenged me. On one such occasion, in Turkey, I had the opportunity to visit classrooms and spend time with educators. I was talking with Professor Akarsu from B University in Istanbul and she asked me what I did for a living and when I answered – I helped to design and implement quality arts programs in schools – she replied – really? And people pay you for that? And I said Shhh… The concept of art coming from outside the school seemed completely unfamiliar to her. For her, the arts are so much a part of the soul of a child that schools have no choice but to offer dance, theatre, storytelling, music, and visual arts. Because quality education is holistic and in the Turkish culture they don’t see the arts as an add on, but rather a necessity, something passed on from generation to generation, from grandparent, to parent, to child. In the Turkish schools I visited the arts didn’t have to do anything else, they didn’t have to improve test scores, or increase attendance, or build self-esteem. When they talked about the arts it was pure and simple – not convoluted and full of jargon. Don’t miss understand what I am saying – I believe the arts do all those things as does Professor Akarsu, but the arts in there purist form must also be celebrated and articulated for the intrinsic, not extrinsic value of their worth. At this gathering, we have 28 workshops and panels, a thought provoking plenary on why children need the arts, and a brilliant keynote by philosopher and Director of Arts Education from the National Endowment, Sarah Cunningham. I have had the opportunity to meet and work with most every presenter this year. The workshops are inspiring, well organized, and thought provoking. This doesn’t mean as participants you can’t challenge, push, and raise questions. We have to continue to dig deeper in order to move this field forward. Be a better person than I was – take your longhaired self-confidence and turn in to something useful. It is never appropriate to be hurtful, but being forthright and honest will be a benefit to us all. As a field we must get better at articulating what we do and why what we do is of value. Over the next day in a half I challenge all us to develop our elevator speech – or at least something that is Twitter-ready – 140 characters. 140 characters might seem frustrating or limiting – but think of it as a modern haiku or sonnet. What can we say about our work that is simple, elegant, and direct that focuses on the intrinsic value of the arts. Collectively, we can create a statement that we can share with the world. Because our responsibility is not only to make my mother understand, but to able to articulate the importance of what we do to everyone with whom we come in contact. To this end, I will host a table at lunch for “intrinsic thought leaders” to discuss and develop our statement. If you other plans for lunch – that’s fine, but then please use the post-it pads provided on the tables or keep a journal or simply jot down your statement on a piece of paper, whatever is easiest for you. You can either post your thoughts on the large post-it pad at the registration desk or just give them to me. I will do my best to draft a value statement and share it at the conference closing tomorrow afternoon. I will then take the statement and because it will be less than 140 characters – I will tweet. I will post our statement on twitter and see what happens. Twenty-two years ago I never would have predicted I would be in a suit, a really nice suit, standing at the podium at Face-to-Face addressing you all. I certainly wouldn’t have thought I would be using tweet as a verb. We have an opportunity to be relevant – collectively relevant. And to communicate that relevance elegantly and efficiently. Because I believe passionately in the work we all do. And I believe our work should be valued by everyone in society. I challenge you all to use these next two days to move the field of arts education forward. Thank you.

Carnegie Hall, Concert Host, Cultural Exchange Program (Turkey, India, Mexico)

Teaching Artists Webposium, Panel Facilitator, Austin, TX

AER Video

Teaching Artist Webposium, Panel Facilitator, Seattle, WA

Arts Every Day, Keynote Speaker, Baltimore, MD

Queens School for Career Development, Commencement Speaker, Queens, NY

My favorite person when I was in high school was Mrs. Henrietta Eddy, the principal’s secretary. Mrs. Eddy and I spent a great deal ...